Territorial marking

Territorial marking

Advances Page 3 rates per kilometer of wolf trail were low in the core areas of territories. Rates increased near the boundaries. However, the numbe...

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Advances

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rates per kilometer of wolf trail were low in the core areas of territories. Rates increased near the boundaries. However, the number of marks per square kilometer increased in territory center due to use of core area by the pack and in peripheral areas which bounded other territories.

Behavior Territorial Marking Background Scent marking (such as ground scratching, urination, defecation, and anal gland secretions) is an important response to unfamiliar surroundings or situations for canids and has canine social implications. Wolves mark to assert dominance in pair-bonding, to achieve reproductive synchrony, for spatial orientation and territory maintenance, and to mark empty food caches. Scent marking is usually aimed at specific, conspicuous objects. Objectives To determine in wolves the: (1) seasonal variation in the marking rates, (2) significance of various kinds of marking in territory demarcation, and (3) relationship between spatial distribution of marking and use of territory. Procedure Data was analyzed on territory marking with urine, feces, and ground scratching by radio-collared wolves belonging to 4 packs in a primeval forest in Poland. Continuous radio-tracking and subsequent snow tracking were used as assessment methods. Results Deposition rates of feces showed little variation in time and space, whereas rates of urine marking and ground scratching showed large seasonal and spatial variation. Marking rates with urine and ground scratching were highest during the cold season (October-March) and peaked during the mating season, in January and February. Marking intensity was not correlated with the number of wolves in a pack, and individual rates of marking were highest in lone or paired wolves. Mean marking

Author Conclusion Territorial marks by wolves are not distributed equally along territory boundaries. Instead, marks are concentrated in “hot spots” more vulnerable to penetration by intruders or more valuable to the pack, such as near breeding dens. Inclusions Four figures, 2 tables, 26 references. Editor Annotation Marking by dogs is something every veterinarian is asked about, but scientific data on the subject are rare. Because humans are so olfactory-compromised compared to dogs and cats, we often make assumptions about urine, fecal, anal sac, sebaceous gland, and other marks that are not true. Although dogs should not be viewed as small wolves, they share an ancestry with wolves, and some of what we learn about wolf marking may bear investigation in dogs. This paper presents data that are useful because of the context in which they are interpreted, i.e., wolves in groups and those associating with specific units may display different behavior than do solitary wolves. Also, I have long thought that scratching was important in dogs, and it appears that it is used in areas that may not hold olfactory marks well and that delineate peripheries of patrolled turf. That urine and scratch marks per capita peak when 2 wolves are together is a finding that may be useful when clients are deciding to add dogs to their household or take them to a dog park. Also, that group marking was most frequent for urine marks involving 4 wolves, followed by scratching marks for either 2 or 4 wolves hints at how the relationships between the wolves, and perhaps dogs, affect how olfactory behavior is executed. It is also worth considering the role temperature may play. For these wolves, urine marking was always higher than scratch marking, but scratch marking peaked in the dead of winter, whereas olfactory marking peaked in spring.

Volatile compounds found in urine will not vaporize well in extreme cold, but increasing temperatures with liquid substrates are ideal for vaporization. Finally, one hypothesis not considered by the authors for the increased frequency of scratch marks near roads and paths may be one worthy of consideration in pet dogs. Simply, scratching is something every species can see, and the act of scratching by itself is very energetic and dramatic. So the information conveyed by scratching may be different than that conveyed by more recognizably odoriferous means. It may be designed so that even those of us who are challenged in such arenas can note, and perhaps avoid, places where certain individuals have recently traversed. (KLO) Zub K, Theuerkauf J, Jedrzejewski W, et al. Wolfpack territory marking in the Bialowieza Primeval Forest (Poland). Behaviour 140:635648.